Divorce. International Edition.
May 2, 2023 9:53 AM   Subscribe

My now abusive husband (M41) of 5 years and I (F31) are headed towards divorce and I’m terrified. In need of any and all practical advice and general hope. 

We are currently living in Norway since 2020 and have 2 children under the age of 10 years old. I’ve been a stay at home mother to our children since 2014, currently unemployed, and gained permit residency status as of 2022. I have no access to our finances besides a low monthly allowance (about $800 which is gone after grocery and medical expenses) from my spouse and he has intentionally kept me in dark for 2 years about his salary, dividends, and assets. It’s tax season and a stray bank statement revealed he received a recent dividend of $800k and he did confirm that after I asked. He has invested a significant amount of money on stocks, gold, and real estate over the years and has disclosed that info to me after the fact. He justifies not informing me of the finances because he feels I’m “irresponsible”. He travels for work to the US every month for 2 weeks without money or transportation (he parks the car at the airport) and forces me to rely on his family to meet day to day needs while he’s abroad. I do have possession of my own passport but I have almost no means to travel and I’m terrified of risking “abandoning” my children if I leave the country without them.

 He has confiscated our children’s passports to his father since December and I’ve been unable to get them back.

Context to know:
-Our children are dual citizens of the US and Norway.
- Spouse and I are also registered as married between both countries.
- I have a Norwegian checkings account for "allowance".
- I have an US checkings account with a finite amount of money.
- I do not have a credit card or access to a line of credit.

I have documented my concerns over the past 6 months with police, social workers, and even caregivers or teachers at my children’s school’s but it’s been incredibly frustrating with how little they can help or plainly defer back to my husband. I cannot trust his family for support because in the instances I have reached out, they give clear support for him. I’ve informed my friends abroad about my situation and they are emotionally supportive. Unfortunately, my own family are unable to assist me besides emotional support. I feel incredibly isolated in our little suburban neighborhood and haven’t made any substantial friendships. I’ve struggled to learn Norwegian and not fluent enough to understand more detailed texts and documents without the help of Google translate. 

Although he is not physically violent he does become aggressive. On the topic of separation he immediately said that I would not be receiving any money from him and that he will pursue full custody of our children. I always disengage to prevent further conflict but I feel damn near hopeless and incredibly trapped.

Last month I consulted with a local family law attorney and saved away just enough funds to cover the retainment fees. I’m aware that I may also need to consult a US (Texas) based attorney because we were married and still own a home there. I’m working with a finite amount of money and need to know what my next steps should be. I have spent a lot of time documenting the escalating emotional, verbal, financial, and mental abuse in detail from over the years. I’m incredibly overwhelmed by fear and stress and trying summarize this as broadly as I can. I know this is probably a horrific read and I’m at my wits end living this nightmare. Please help me be constructive.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He has confiscated our children’s passports to his father since December and I’ve been unable to get them back.

I am not a lawyer so I am not going to provide any legal advice, but I'd suggest applying for a second passport for both kids, ideally timed to arrive when your husband is out of the country on business.
posted by coffeecat at 10:04 AM on May 2, 2023 [9 favorites]

1) Is there a crisis line for domestic violence in Norway or in your local area? They might be able to hook you up with advice or translation support. I don't know about Norway, but in the country where I live, these calls don't even show up on your phone bill.
2) Do any of your friends back home know that you need money to get out of an abusive relationship? If their financial situation doesn't allow them to help you, do you have any older friends or more distant relatives you've fallen out of touch with who might be able to help? I can think of several people I haven't spoken to in literal decades that I'd loan or straight-up gift a couple thousand if they were in a situation like this.
posted by nanny's striped stocking at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2023 [13 favorites]


I can't imagine there isn't an infrastructure in Norway for someone like you. I also can't imagine he will get full custody, regardless of what he does. Specially because you have been a SAHM, and he has been traveling. He is gaslighting you. What can be a bummer is child support (compared to the US), even though you have been a stay at home mum. I don't know enough about the Norwegian situation here, but he has a clear obligation to support you and the children (see link below). You should be able to get help to get a modest home for you and the children, and some social security with state assistance, while things get sorted.

You can get free legal aid: Fri rettshjelp. Ask the krisesenter about this.

Property relations between spouses
posted by mumimor at 10:43 AM on May 2, 2023 [7 favorites]

I am so sorry you are going through this. The system is stacked against you, that isn’t just your imagination. You are strong enough to get through this though. In addition to a lawyer, line up a therapist as well. You aren’t trapped, you can get out of this. It took me years, but I am so happy in my life - all the stress was worth it in the end.

Norwegian tax return are public record, so get his tax returns, a copy of that statement about the $800,000 (a photo is fine) and bring to your lawyer. They should be willing to work for the settlement money.

Do you have any expensive belongings that can be sold to get first and last months rent? Or, ask your lawyer about having exclusive possession of the house. Since you have documented the abuse, you can file for a restraining order if the Lawyer advises it. Do not leave your children under any circumstances. Your actions must be “in the best interests of the children”, which include not leaving them in the care of an abusive or absent parent.

As a US citizen, reach out to your embassy to see what suggestions they may have. As mentioned, claim the passports as lost and get new ones (as a US citizen it would be better for you to get them US passports. I do not suggest you leave the country with them, stay on the right side of the law.
posted by saucysault at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2023 [11 favorites]

I am so sorry you find yourself in this situation. I think you are already taking all the right steps. Documenting everything. And trying to assess your legal options.

As for the passports, make sure you know of all the laws applicable to your situation. In some countries, leaving the country with children without the other parents knowing can be seen as "kidnapping" and be used against you in a family court. Please consult with your attorney on this!

Are there any crisis services that could consult you on your next steps? Maybe by getting in touch with their office nearest to you could help?
> https://www.krisesenter.com/
> https://www.bufdir.no/familie/familievernkontorer
(I was able to navigate the site using Google translate)

I would expect the family attorney to help lay out a plan for you, maybe pointing you to the right social services where necessary. As nanny said above, don't shy away from asking family for financial support in these circumstances.

As for moral support, maybe the poems of Nikita Gill will give you some courage. You could start with the Wild Embers collection.

Remember what you must do
when they undervalue you,
when they think
your softness is your weakness,
when they treat your kindness
like it is their advantage.

You awaken
every dragon,
every wolf,
every monster
that sleeps inside of you
and you remind them
what hell looks like
when it wears the skin
of a gentle human.

Wishing you luck!
posted by Fallbala at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2023 [4 favorites]

I found this domestic violence link in Norway. I think you need domestic violence counseling and also legal counseling both in Norway and back in Texas. It sounds like you need logistical help as well as financial.

There are legal ramifications to leaving your children and also leaving the country with them that you should be aware of before you do anything, so you are on the right track consulting with a local attorney and thinking about consulting with an attorney in Texas. The U.S. embassy may also have resources for you in terms of domestic violence and legal referrals if you need them. You are doing critical work to your and your children's wellbeing. Please take good care of yourself as much as you can while you weather this storm.
posted by *s at 10:48 AM on May 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest applying for a second passport for both kids, ideally timed to arrive when your husband is out of the country on business.

I can't speak to the Norway side of things, but US passports for minors (under the age of 16) require that either both parents be present when applying or that the present parent bring a signed and notarized DS-3053 “Statement of Consent" for the non-present parent. Renewals require applying in person for minors. This is very specifically so that parents can't take children on international trips without the consent of both parents. (More details here.)

You may want to try concentrating on social engineering to get the passports back from the father - could they be "needed" to document something for school or something? (And as other are saying, please be careful of your actions to not create a situation where you are considered to be kidnapping.)
posted by past unusual at 10:49 AM on May 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

In some countries, leaving the country with children without the other parents knowing can be seen as "kidnapping" and be used against you in a family court.

Taking the children out of the country in which they are habitually resident without the consent of the other parent will be treated as abduction under the law of most states. The relevant international convention requires that custody decisions be made in the country in which the children are habitually resident unless there are serious risks to the safety of the children. It's the kind of thing I would only do if I thought my child was in serious jeopardy of extreme abuse at the hands of the other parent just over the course of any custody proceedings; it will infinitely complicate any family law proceedings.
posted by praemunire at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

I’m not sure how it works once you have children but when I lived in Norway the key to getting covered by social benefits was having a job. Once you had a job and not enough money to live on you could go to NAV and start the process to get benefits. So you need to start figuring out how to do that in your situation. I went to the women’s migrant help center in Oslo even though I wasn’t a typical client and they still humored me (I got dumped by my live in boy friend- your situation is more serious) so you need to start finding that out. It’s like feeding a paperwork monster but once you get the right pieces of paper with the right sentences on it then you will start to receive money and a place to live or your husband will have to leave. But in Northern European countries it is not good to look hysterical, they always think these things are communication problems and your husband knows if you look hysterical then he will win… so try to stay calm and find out how to feed the paperwork monster , it’s unlikely he can get full custody… I’m not sure but I imagine Norway would like both parents in a child’s life.
posted by pairofshades at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2023 [6 favorites]

Replying again with another thought I had. One thing you can do right away is scan and copy your all your documents and all your children's documents that are still in your possession and keep them somewhere safe. If you can't get to a scanner, take the best clearest photos you can with your phone - there should be a way to set photos as private if you don't want them to show up in your photo reel, or you could start a new email account in private browsing mode, send them to yourself using the new account, and then delete them from your device.

If Norway offers a way to download official verified copies of your documents (marriage certificate, kids' birth certificates, concession of residency, etc.) try to find out how to access this service.
posted by nanny's striped stocking at 1:00 PM on May 2, 2023

Before, I was juggling a couple of other things while posting, but I thought I'd come back with some more cultural advice.

Divorce is always terrible, regardless of where you are. It takes time and it's costly. Because of the emotional abuse, you may be able to avoid the seperation period, but you need to discuss this with your lawyer. Divorce when you are in a foreign country and don't know the language is even harder. IMO, it's worth it, though sometimes you may despair along the way.

Norway is an extremely rich liberal welfare state. Children are important and you are all entitled to help, not least because the children need to be protected. Go to the krisesenter or call them, there will be English speakers. Use the free legal service in Norway and save your money for the US situation.

Some things that can be a bit confounding: some Norwegians, not all, can be a bit nationalistic. That may be why some of the authorities you have talked to aren't really helpful. But another reason may be that they just have no clue what to do and are shy about it. Luckily, what you are going through is not normal, and even social workers, police and teachers don't have a lot of experience with what you are going through. Regardless, this is why you need to go to someone who specializes in helping victims of domestic abuse, they are used to working with immigrants and with mixed couples. Even they may not know about gaslighting, though. Do you know what it is? You might want to print out the information here and show it to your counselor, when you get one.

I can't imagine any scenario where your husband could get full custody of the children. Please don't let this scare you, and this is the main reason I mention gaslighting. He is exploiting the fact that you don't have full access to information and finances.

You will never get help from your in-laws. That doesn't mean they are evil, but your husband is their family, it will be hard for them to accept he is doing wrong, and obviously they are scared of "losing" the grandchildren. Personally, I have spent quite a bit of energy in ensuring that my children could see their grandparents and the rest of the family both during and after the seperation, and it has done us well in the long run. But they are not going to help you through the divorce. Heck, my own family hated the whole thing, except for those sisters who were completely updated.

At a krisesenter, you will meet other people in similar situations. You might think they are very different from you in culture or social standing, but you will be surprised how much support you can find. I was, when I needed it.

Finally, I was 33 when I divorced from my abusive husband, and I didn't know it then, but I know now: I was young. I could build a new life, and in some ways I did. My main regret was that I didn't get the right help to get over the abuse, because I ended up with PTSD and several years of disability. But apart from that, 30 is the most glamorous age. You are ready to go, to find new jobs, new love and new happiness. Specially if you get the right support.
posted by mumimor at 1:17 PM on May 2, 2023 [19 favorites]

Given the timing of your move to Norway and the fact your family still owns a house in Texas, I am wondering whether there was a plan for your family to stay in Norway indefinitely or if you planned to return to the U.S. after a couple years (or when a certain pandemic ended). If you moved to Norway believing it was a temporary move and that your family would be returning to the United States after a couple years, I encourage you to gather as much documentation as you can regarding that plan and provide it to your attorney.
posted by ElizaMain at 1:40 PM on May 2, 2023

What helped me to leave my husband (finally) was I called a help line, and the woman I spoke to said- your kids see you as the hysterical one and your husband as the cool collected one, and if you continue in this marriage, your children will blame you. I realized that was a dynamic I had seen again and again, and I did not want that for my kids. So I kicked my husband out of the house. I packed his bags, and met him at the door, took his keys and told him it was over. It took a lot from that point until our divorce was finalized. I was a stay at home mother, he made a lot of money. Leaving meant I was going to be poor. We were also living abroad, and there was no way we could continue to do so and get divorced. A lot of back tracking, and then the same abusive behaviors. But in the end, we split. Our kids were 4 and 7. They are now 22 and 25. Getting divorced was the hardest and best thing I ever did. He is still a lot richer than me, although I was able to negotiate a very good alimony and child support agreement. But my life is mine, and I am partnered with someone who I have been with longer than my marriage, and he is a supportive, loving partner. I have my own career, and I also have a great relationship with my children. And they know their father- the good and the bad. And my ex and I now have a good relationship- and I think every time I hear something about him that reminds me of our married years- better his second wife than me. You can do this- you just need to put one foot in front of the other, and know that the other side will be all that you wish for and more.
posted by momochan at 4:18 PM on May 2, 2023 [11 favorites]

Do you want me to contact my Norwegian friend who lives in Oslo, is fluent in English, is around your age, who might help you navigate the logistics? Memail me if so.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2023 [15 favorites]

This is a consideration for down the road, not immediately, but your husband is spending 50% of his time in the US. I can't see any grounds why it would be unreasonable for you and the kids to be allowed to move back and let him have access to them stateside.
posted by kate4914 at 5:55 PM on May 2, 2023 [3 favorites]

Yes, (this is complete conjecture!) I think your husband must be spending more than half his time in the states probably for tax purposes, it would be very very good if you got to take the kids over next summer or something on one of his trips… it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he could force you to return if he is there over half the time anyway.
posted by pairofshades at 3:16 AM on May 3, 2023

(can this question be anonymised for safety reasons? original poster has a posting history relating to travel history which may give some clues as to who she is should it be discovered).
posted by plep at 6:29 AM on May 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

Unless your lawyer advises that there is a way for you to return to the US without triggering international kidnapping treaties, the next big piece of the puzzle to figure out is probably leaving your husband and setting up a temporary home for you and the children in Norway. There are going to be some smaller steps involved in that and the krisesenter and the lawyer should be able to help you figure out what they are and how to do them. I would contact the krisesenter next because that will be cheaper than the lawyer.
posted by plonkee at 7:12 AM on May 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

You also asked for practical steps and I think I shared some (nav, women’s migrant center) but I think changing your mindset might help a little bit. I have lived in 2 Northern European countries and I notice a some differences in how couple conflicts seem to be treated. I feel like these countries pride themselves in being beacons of equality so if you are having problems it must be a communication or education problem- ie you didn’t ask for what you want properly or you misunderstood the situation etc. and you are the problem. They won’t take sides unless it’s in a family where culturally you would expect to see male privileged abuse. And the children are their own person. They don’t belong to you OR your husband. That’s in your favor but also not. BUT since your husband is Norwegian and his family is there… they are receiving the correct education and you haven’t (this is unspoken)…

Where I am there are a lot of resources and you should start taking advantage of them- with the understanding of the “truth” I’ve stated above. Pretend you are on a different planet, you must do things their way. Start going to a church (for example), volunteer, tell them you need help with your Norwegian. Tell them you need friends. Find a Job.

Decide that you are not going to be bitter about this. And believe it or not, jerks are the problem not Norway.

But I really believe that these countries WILL NOT LET YOU PARK IN THE VICTIMS PARKING SPOT no matter how much you need to park there- unless you feed the paperwork monster.

I send you big hugs.
posted by pairofshades at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

Incidentally, there's a chance it might also be worth checking in with an American divorce lawyer (ideally one who has experience with international situations), especially if some of your or your husband's assets (do you have any joint assets?) are in the US. From very (very) light googling it seems like Norway is shockingly not into the idea of alimony, common property, or equitable distribution of assets - maybe because of the mentality that pairofshades describes - and it's worth at least checking if you might be eligible for any part of the US assets regardless of what happens with the ones in Norway.
posted by trig at 9:50 AM on May 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of domestic violence agencies in Norway.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:16 PM on May 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

« Older Diagnose my brother   |   Is it OK to give out my car's VIN? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments